The definition of dilemma: a situation requiring a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives.
That is where this librarian is right now, making a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives. The question---whether to put Habibi by Craig Thompson into circulation in my school library. What are the two equally undesirable alternatives, you ask? Let me explain, but first let me tell you about the book.
Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, HABIBI tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them.S.I. Rosenbaum, a reviewer for the Boston Phoenix, said this about Thompson and Habibi:
At once contemporary and timeless, HABIBI gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling. -Craig Thompson's Habibi webpage
“Craig Thompson's new graphic novel, Habibi, is a masterpiece. This isn't an opinion. This book is a gorgeous object; to make it, Thompson apparently covered himself in honey and rolled around in a thousand years of Arabic calligraphy and Islamic art, and the result is breathtaking.”
I know. It sounds lovely. It is lovely. Craig Thompson is a master at illustrations and his graphic novels are amazing. This book is no exception. 600+ pages in length with amazing illustrations and a dramatic story line, this seems like the perfect book for a high school library. It would be a perfect book for us EXCEPT for one rather large-ish problem. SEX. There is lots of it in the book and when there is sex in a graphic novel, well, er-r-r, the results are graphic.
Last Tuesday the Top Ten Tuesday meme asked the question "What are the titles of books that made you feel uncomfortable?" This book would have made the list. I was very uncomfortable while reading it. I couldn't get comfortable with the volume of graphic sex acts in the book. And I'm pretty sure that parents of my high school students wouldn't be comfortable with it, either. Therein lies the dilemma. To return a book that has a fantastic storyline and wonderful illustrations by a very talented author/illustrator (bad choice) or keep it even though it really is too graphic for the population (another bad choice.) As a public school librarian I am charged with selecting books for our collection which match the curriculum and the values of the community, but I am also a believer in the anti-censorship aspect of the 1st amendment.
What to do, what to do? It is a dilemma. Whatever I choose, it will be a bad choice.
PS. Go to Craig Thompson's webpage and take a look at the art, the reviews, the process of making Habibi. Of particular interest to me is that none of the example illustrations on his page include sex scenes. Hmmmmm....